It’s not even a year since voice assistants like Alexa were officially launched in India, but their adoption, usage and growth in general has been phenomenal. From banks and insurance, to white goods and car makers, voice is being embraced to create a new form of digital interface.
The rise of voice is no accident, for we know, it is the most natural way for humans to interact with a machine. In comparison touch, click or type based interface such as mobile phones and PCs has a learning curve such as mastering gestures and commands and they suddenly seems less efficient. Voice is primarily action oriented and makes life easier in situations where we are pre occupied with one task like cooking, driving or simple watching TV and want our devices to help us with another task such as taking notes, setting reminders, sending messages, playing music or controlling lights and gadgets.
The first page of marketing touts that businesses must have conversations with their audience to convert them as customers and voice assistants being built to converse creates a fundamental reason for brands to invest time and resources to create a voice presence. Increasingly, on the other end of the spectrum, customers are enjoying the power to hail a cab or reorder home supplies by summoning voice assistants. A dream equilibrium that's helping voice assistants grow.
Voice adoption has been unlike any other digital technology we have seen in the past decade. A combination but concentrated efforts are at play. Google Assistant is practically in every Android phone including the 500 rupees feature phone from the house of Jio. Alexa is being steadily integrated into home entertainment systems, air conditioners and more. Whether a business is targeting upwardly mobile and discerning audience through high end gadgets or target mass markets through feature phones, voice is both malleable and ductile, two important parameters for growth and adoption of any new technology.
Habit is a powerful force marketers has to constantly deal with, it can lead to inertia and entropy that deters people to adopt new ways of doing things, and tech industry in filled with examples including constant cashback and deep discounts thrown in plenty to create habituated customers; but in a voice first world, the force of habit is creating a positive momentum and accelerating adoption, the reason for that includes the ease of using voice interface, its ability to get things done, it is universally available (car, mobile, smart speaker, etc.) and most importantly reduces friction. On your mobile phone, setting a calendar event has steps starting from unlocking, finding & opening the app, creating the event by typing and then saving; with voice assistant, you just say it.
Since the introduction of transistors in 50s, every decade in computing has been disruptive. The later half of last decade saw birth and growth of smartphones, and it continues to not just drive connectivity and consumption of online content but is also helping voice interfaces to steadily percolate into our daily lives. Web search is just one simple but disproportionately large chunk of online activity that is increasingly becoming voice first.
The incredible ease at which people can use voice assistants make them universally appealing and acceptable. The addition of more global and Indic languages instantly opens door for mass adoption. Indian usage of voice assistants has tripled since the start of the year and we can expect it to pick up must more momentum in next 6 to 12 months.
Despite much hype, chatbots failed to hit critical mass in India, this can be attributed to a simple set of consumer truths. Firstly we hate to type but love to talk. Second, bots generally lack context when we use Hinglish or Tanglish terms in sentences. But voice assistants are addressing both these issues. Alexa and Google Assistant can answer your questions like ‘time kya hua’ (what’s the time?) or ‘Dilbar remix gaana bajao’ (Play the dilbar remix song)
The true validator of any disruption is when consumers adopt it, voice assistant, despite being in its earliest avatars is being widely welcomed into our devices and thus lives. It is shaping an entire new generation as well. Brands that create a voice play earlier on will stand to accrue the benefits of learning and growing along with their target customers.
Views are personal
The author is co-founder of Agrahyah Technologies